Hello from your recalcitrant knit-blogging friend

I haven’t been posting here as much as I intended, relying instead on Ravelry project notes or longer Instagram captions to keep track of basic details… and it’s mostly fine, but it doesn’t really allow for any kind of in-depth discussion, planning, sharing inspiration, exploration of thoughts that aren’t directly related to a project photo, and generally the kinds of things that sparked my interest in knit-blogging in the first place. Periodically, I make plans to catch up with all the projects I haven’t written about (there really are quite a lot) and all my resolve evaporates when all that life stuff gets in the way.

Loose pile of multicolored sock yarn that has been frogged.

So I keep wondering about the best approach. I recently made a tally of all the knitting projects I have completed, but not photographed or fully shared here or elsewhere and discovered I have a backlog of at least:

  • 10 hat/glove/mitt type accessories
  • 1 yoga mat bag
  • 8 scarves/wraps/cowls
  • 11 sweaters/shrugs
  • 29 pairs of socks

(Yes, there is a spreadsheet involved.)

The upshot, strictly in terms of knit-blogging, is that the vast majority of my WIPs have been in storage since the end of 2018, so I’ve given myself a pass to continue not discussing them until they come back out of hibernation and I resume working on them. But I have managed to amass quite a pile of new projects in the meantime, in various stages of completion, along with the ever-growing box of monthly socks. And my goodness, there are non-knitting craft projects too!

I hope you will bear with me as I work on catching myself back up, here and everywhere else. I might do a somewhat regular FO-Friday / WIP-Wednesday style of posting for a little bit, or figure out a rhythm to documenting the older projects while writing about the new ones more regularly. I know I said I was going to start doing all this a year ago, but I think we can all agree that time and reality worked very differently in 2020. So let’s see how it goes this time!

FO: Walking through a Vineyard Socks

Before I get to the socks, I want to note that I have a lot of other things I’d like to talk about, and I’m planning some wordier posts soon. I’m in a bit of a logjam with my classes, some personal things, and the all of this going on, probably much like everyone else. So let’s start with the socks, and I will chip away at the rest as I can.

I also need to add a note of caution: throughout my site, I have links to pattern and project pages on Ravelry without individual seizure warnings. I generally label Ravelry links separately from other links already, but please, please proceed with caution before following any links to Ravelry until they get their redesign issues sorted out for accessibility.

Walking through a Vineyard Socks, shown on feet outdoors to demonstrate the stitch pattern as worn.

Pattern: Walking through a Vineyard by Dots Dabbles, a pattern available for free on Ravelry (Project page)
Size: Women’s size 9.5 (US), made using size L from the pattern
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Tonal, fingering weight, 75% Merino wool / 25% nylon in Mountain Pass
Needles: Size 1.5 (2.5 mm) DPNs
Modifications: I added additional stitches to the ribbing and lengthened it slightly. I also added length to the toes, as described below

Started: May 29, 2020
Finished: June 26, 2020

Socks flat on blockers

As I mentioned on Instagram, when I first started knitting, the idea of so many twisted stitches and cable crossings seemed impossible to me at the fine gauge needed for socks. I figured socks like these would take a year or more, if I could ever get through them. I’m delighted to see how much I’ve grown as a knitter since then, as well as what a joy these deceptively complex little twists and crossings were.

Socks on feet, with toes pointed together

As I’ve been doing with most top-down socks lately, I started with a greater diameter of stitches and lengthened the ribbing to give a stretchier, more accommodating cuff for wide calves. I worked 24 rows of ribbing and decreased the extra stitches evenly spaced in the 23rd round.

Detail view of twisted stitch pattern and cabling

The twisted stitch pattern was rhythmic and intuitive. The symmetry and enjoyable flow of more complicated rows, then more “restful” rows kept my momentum going, and the length of the chart repeat was just right to easily track. I love the way this yarn looks in twisted stitches and cables, and I have been incredibly happy with every project I’ve worked in the Stroll Tonal line.

Round heel, with decreases centered on the sole

The round heel is an elegant detail that allows the columns of cables to continue from the leg into the foot uninterrupted. I worked a similar style of heel on a pair of toe-up colorwork socks that we haven’t talked about yet (soon!) and continue to be impressed with how comfortable the fit is on the ball of the heel. As diehard a short-row-heel lover as I’ve been, I may have found a new favorite gusset-heel style.

Detail of gusset and heel flat on sock blocker

The way the sock makes room to cup the heel ensures the cable patterning fits perfectly across the instep and snugs into the arches without distorting the pattern. It also de-emphasizes the stitches picked up along the heel flap, which is the area that still causes me the most insecurity in top-down socks, somehow, after all these years.

Toes of socks on feet, with detail of cable patterning

The pattern gives the option for a plain or a patterned toe, and I’m glad I went with more patterning. I just love the cable transitions and the way that design detail, combined with the green color, give these socks a Celtic feel. I added additional rows in the toe decreases, which resulted in a few plain rows at the very tip.

These socks were an absolute joy to knit, and I’m thrilled with the finished result. I’d give this pattern my highest possible recommendation, and if you are hesitant that they are too complicated, I assure you, the clarity of the instructions and detailed charts will carry you through.

Social media, catching up, and knitting in quarantine

“It’s been a while since I updated my knitting blog,” I thought sheepishly, firing up a browser with a bit of trepidation… “It’s probably been like six months or more…”

Last post date August 21, 2018.

2018? 2018! Oh jeez, I’m sorry.

I did not mean to disappear when I set up my Knitting Instagram to share projects. It happened to fall at the same time as a whole bunch of personal turmoil (career stuff, illness, moving, starting a program to retrain for a new career etc. etc.) and until recently, I was spending the majority of my free time on a long train commute in and out of Manhattan, which is great for knitting but has not proven optimal for knit-blogging.

Knitting and knit-blogging are really two different animals, and I think there is great value in exploring projects and concepts more comprehensively. When I am searching for a tutorial or more information about a pattern, I pretty much never search Instagram or go through needle-in-a-haystack Ravelry searches; it’s more often 10-year-old blog posts that give the qualities of thought and reflection or specific, detailed information I want. On a personal level, I also feel there is tremendous joy in writing and reading about crafts and the places they hold in our lives. I don’t tend to go very in-depth on Instagram or interact as much as I mean to, so I would like all of that to change.

So what have I been up to?

Since my last post here I’ve:

  • knit 16 pairs of socks
  • designed, knit, and gifted (on time!) a cabled baby sweater for my cousin’s son
  • learned how to use my sewing machine (kind of) to sew a linen caftan that I dye-painted for a costumed art party (will miracles never cease?!)
  • packed up all my stash and in-process projects, save a handful, and put them into my storage locker while I’m living with family and going to school
  • knit three sweaters for myself
  • knit two yoga mat bags, one for each of my parents, which they absolutely love
  • knit my first colorwork mittens and socks
  • participated in the Fiberuary Challenge, posting on Instagram in response to prompts for every day of this past February
  • started knitting my first blanket (more on that below)
  • hand-sewed and embroidered three Mask Strap Ear Guards for my physical therapist father and two of his colleagues
  • started learning brioche

While I mull over the best way to catch up here (I will probably introduce a series of Flashback FO posts), I also want to talk about knitting in quarantine.

Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, I was already using knitting as a form of meditation, self-care, anxiety-release, and way to occupy my hands while I’m chatting, watching television, reading, or commuting. I always have at least one or two projects on the go (hence the large number of socks I’ve knit this year, as they are the most portable projects) and turn to them whenever I have a free moment. A lot of the knitters I follow on Instagram took on larger or more complicated projects for their “Quarantine Cast-Ons,” to make the most of their stay-at-home orders.

As I live with and know quite a number of high-risk individuals – and was just coming off two surgeries myself in late January – I took the infection risk from this pandemic very seriously. Like, I put a mask with an N-95 filter on my Christmas wish list and wore it every day in the city from when my classes resumed in early February onwards. As my brother and father are both essential healthcare workers, we have all been taking enormous precautions to stay safe and limit everyone’s risk of exposure, so I am happy to stay at home, adjust to my classes moving online, and knit through every worry.

One of my other Christmas gifts was the Hue Shift Afghan kit, a gorgeous blanket with a clever pattern that pairs each of ten colors in a rainbow spectrum with every other color in a plaid-like stripey grid gradient made with mitered squares.

I am absolutely enamored with the process and how neatly the squares fold in on themselves. It is also a whole lot of easy garter stitch, which is deeply soothing, meditative, and comforting when I am lacking the intellectual or emotional bandwidth to process anything else. I’ve found myself working on this blanket through countless Zoom lectures, conversations with my biomed tech brother reporting back from endless days setting up ventilators and all the equipment in northern New Jersey hospital systems, governor’s press briefings, fundraising specials, and all the distractions to take our minds off all the rest. (On that note, we just caught up on Killing Eve, and it is great fun).

Beyond all the practical and knitterly reasons why this is a great quarantine project, I am also touched by the idea of the rainbow as a promise of better things to come after hardship. As I knit my rainbow blanket, I keep imagining ways we can come together and make a better society, how we are unified in this moment and can use it to open our eyes to inequities, distorted and broken systems, and our inherently better natures. I am focusing this blanket in love, hope, and idealism, and I hope it will continue to carry that feeling for me whenever I use it after this time.

So, how have you been? What have you all been making?

Behavioral Analysis

I’m obsessed with data and finding ways to quantify and analyze behaviors. I also have a fairly torrid love affair going with Excel, so I finally answered a question that had been rolling around in my mind for a while:

What projects do I actually finish?

I looked at the 70 projects I’ve completed over time, and I broke them down into types.

Percentage-wise (rounding up and down) it’s approximately:

Accessories 3%
Baby 3%
Hats 17%
Scarf / Wrap 16%
Shrug / Bolero 13%
Socks 35%
Sweaters 10%
Tops / Tees / Vests 4%

I found this breakdown fairly interesting, as one of the main reasons I wanted to learn to knit was so I could make sweaters and shrugs to wear over dresses, yet combined they comprise less than a quarter of my knitting output. Of course it can be argued that counting each pair of socks as a project is disproportionate with the arduousness of creating a whole sweater, but math-wise, I seem much more likely to finish a pair of socks than anything else.

Next I considered whether I am as selfish a knitter as I think I am, and if that has any influence on the types of projects I finish.

11 gifts and 59 projects for myself. Yes, I am knitting about as selfishly as possible.

I am most likely to make you a hat or a scarf / wrap if I’m knitting you a gift.

And I am most likely to make myself socks or wintry accessories (hats and scarves). Even though I really want sweaters.

So without further sorting the data and filling in a bit of subjectivity, I seem more likely to finish smaller or easier projects (hats, scarves, socks) whether they’re for myself or others. Not a huge surprise there. And while I didn’t compile data on it, I know that I almost never wear any of the non-sweater tops I’ve made, whereas I wear the sweaters and shrugs quite frequently. They may be a larger time investment and a higher degree of difficulty, but I get a lot more enjoyment and use out of them, so that’s time and energy sometimes better spent.

Then I turned to pattern sources, to answer a secondary question inspired by the amount of money I’ve spent on magazine subscriptions and books over the years.

What pattern sources yield the most finished projects?

I would have guessed that I knit the most projects from knitting magazines, but I would have been quite wrong.

I knit about 39% from independent or self-publishing designers, 17% from online magazines (Knitty, the late MagKnits, Knit on the Net, and so forth), 14% from patterns I made up, 13% from magazines, 11% from yarn company patterns, and only about 6% from books.

I was quite surprised because of these sources, the books tend to be the most expensive, followed by magazines, yet my habits tend to be inversely proportionate to the cost. Whoops. I was also surprised by how many projects came from patterns that I had devised, but these were obviously quite a bit simpler (scarves, bags – essentially big rectangles that may or may not have had lace patterns incorporated).

And, I can’t forget, I’ve started a lot more projects than I’ve actually finished. But that was exactly the intent of this analysis. My hypothesis was that I’d be much more likely to finish patterns from paid sources, since I was literally more invested in them, but surprisingly, the split was 80% free patterns, only 20% paid.

And now I see where my apparent love and support of independent designers is not actually what it seems. Most of the self-published patterns I’ve finished were free. Otherwise, the free patterns came from online magazines and yarn companies (Cascade, Berroco, and Lion Brand, specifically).

And of the paid patterns, I was right, that I mostly finish those from magazines (almost exclusively Interweave Knits) followed by books and every once in a while I support an indie designer financially as well as in spirit.

So while there has been an excess of pie charts, I actually learned a lot about myself as a knitter. I may have a library full of magazines and books, but I am much more likely to finish free patterns I dig up from self-published sources and independent designers online.

I knit way more socks than anything else, although what I really want to knit are sweaters and shrugs.

And I could really stand to finish a few more gifts and pay to support all these independent designers whose work I obviously adore.

Well hi there

Gosh I’ve missed this space. I have an actual reason I’ve been away, but I also have some lesser reasons too.

I know a lot of knitters go full-tilt in the fall, whipping up new sweaters and afghans and what have you for the cold months. I seem to be a different type of knitter, coming back to life in the spring and summer.

Now that the trees have finally bloomed and I’ve had a few delightful evenings sitting outside sipping Prosecco, I am looking forward to nice things around here.